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Broken Social Scene Has the World Hug Back

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When describing the maximalist approach of Canadian rock collective Broken Social Scene, drummer Justin Peroff prefers to speak in culinary terms.

“We have a core group of people who kind of make up the meats and potatoes of the group,” says Peroff, whose band plays at the Fox Theater on Thursday, Oct. 26. “And sometimes, meats and potatoes can be pretty bland. So we like to take out the spice rack and add a little flavor.”

Meat and potatoes sprinkled with a little spice probably doesn’t do justice to Broken Social Scene, a band that boasts dozens of full and part-time members and regularly trots out double-digits rosters onstage. A six-course dinner of high French cuisine paired with a couple of nice bottles of wine is more like it.

Broken Social Scene was the defining band of the expansive and fearless early 2000s, a time when baroque indie rock bands ruled the roost through a combination of heart-on-sleeve lyrics and kitchen-sink approaches to instrumentation. Taking off with 2003’s landmark album You Forget it in People and concluding with 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record, the group released a series of anthemic recordings that captured and distilled the zeitgeist.

But as indie music shifted to a more pop-friendly approach in the following years, Broken Social Scene dipped into the background, remaining conspicuously absent as its many talented members pursued other projects (among the group’s past and current cohorts are the eponymous Feist, Emily Haines of Metric, Charles Spearin of Do Make Say Think, and Kevin Drew, generally regarded as the collective’s centerpiece.) After long stretches without any activity, the group finally returned this year with the release of Hug of Thunder, a 12-track album brimming with an array of sonic samplings.

From low-key ambient numbers to soaring, verse-to-the-rafter choruses, the album showcases the entirety of the group’s inspired approach, affirming that, despite ever-changing cultural trends, a Broken Social Scene album will always be filled with Broken Social Scene songs.

While there is plenty of wariness on the new album — the group has never shied from making their left-leaning political views known — Hug of Thunder ultimately feels like a triumphant album. Songs like “Halfway Home,” “Skyline” and “Mouth Guards of the Apocalypse,” radiate defiance, seeming to scream out that the current sad state of affairs will not drag the group down.

“We don’t think life is a cakewalk for anybody right now,” says Peroff, who is an actor, DJ, and session drummer when not playing with Broken Social Scene. “We have always been ones to wear our heart on our sleeves, and instead of lamenting this darkness, I think we want to offer something that could make people smile. We are hoping to generate those warm and fuzzy feelings in the middle of this very frigid world view.”

Plenty of bands spew rosy platitudes about resistance and optimism, but there is extra credence when these themes emanate from Broken Social Scene. This is a band comprised of lifelong friends, so there is a special authenticity when they preach about love and empathy.

Peroff met Drew when he was 17 years old, and many of the other member’s connections go back decades as well. It feels like a distinctively Canadian characteristic that this cast of exceedingly talented members would all stash their personal egos for the greater good.

“These are my brothers and sisters,” says Peroff. “When we express our creativity together, it resonates in ways that wouldn’t necessarily be there with other groups.”

Fans recognize the deep, communal bonds that the members share, and the feelings of compassion and understanding that come from the stage are often returned firsthand from the audience.

“It’s a big group hug on stage, but it’s a collective hug with the fans as well,” says Peroff. “We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing if we didn’t feel that energy every night.”

With band focused on perfecting their dynamic live performances in support of Hug of Thunder, Peroff remained mum on the future schedule of the group, opting to defer a question on whether the group would go multiple years between albums again.

He did say, though, that the group wouldn’t function if it didn’t have its full complement of players in tow. The meat and potatoes needs it spices, after all.

“We could never write our catalog of songs as a trio or a quartet,” said Peroff. “I think we had like, 19 people credited on our last album. It just couldn’t work any other way.”

Broken Social Scene with The Belle Game, Thursday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m., at the Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. $36; thefoxoakland.com.

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Will Reisman

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Will Reisman
Tags: Broken Social Scene Charles Spearin Do Make Say Think Emily Haines Feist Hug of Thunder Justin Peroff Metric You Forgot it in People

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